The death of Marvin Gaye will always remain an indelible memory from my childhood. I clearly recall hearing of his passing via a breaking news report on breakfast TV while getting dressed for school. The year was 1884. Two years prior, Sexual Healing was burning up the charts, transforming my preteen self into a certified fan. His death was shocking to me because I struggled to reconcile the image of the handsome man in a tux smoldering in front of the camera in the aforementioned video, with the stark contrast of TV footage showing his covered, lifeless body being carted off into an ambulance.
What made his death even more tragic, was of course the fact that it was cut short by the one person who you’d expect to protect him – his father. This macabre incident is the subject of a new play by Roy Williams which is scheduled to debut in the UK next May. Entitled Soul, the production is a dramatisation of the final few weeks of Marvin’s life when gripped by the clutches of drug addiction and depression, he decided to move into his parents’ home to seek refuge from his personal demons. There are differing accounts of the events leading up to Marvin’s death, but the most common version is that after a verbal altercation between father and son, the conflict accelerated and turned physical. In a fit of rage, Gay senior went to fetch a gun and returned, pumping several bullets into the body of his son, killing him instantly. Speaking to the Guardian about the emotive project, Williams said, “It was really interesting digging deep and learning much more about his whole life, particularity his complex relationship with his father. It’s such a fascinating and sad but powerful story – the more I asked questions, the more the play seemed to be writing itself really. It felt like a Greek tragedy.” Sounds super-interesting. Look forward to seeing this.